Marlon was the first to be called. He was alone at home. He should have been in bed, he knew, but the empty bed was cold and uninviting. He sat on the couch watching old war movies. He'd bought a bottle each of rum and of Coke to drink while he watched, but he'd grown bored of drinking before finishing the first glass.
His heart leapt when he heard his phone ring, then fell when he saw the caller ID. Not a friend or a lover calling to chat. It was Ms Shan. He answered, knowing what the message would be.
"The battle's on," Ms Shan said. "Tomorrow. Dawn." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 59: The Call"
In the darkening car park in front of the Handy Pavilion, Laura listened patiently to Buck Dusty's long expository story of magic, conspiracy and the eternal peril approaching all dimensions. She listened in silence as he explained the origins of the Grey Barn and how the fate of all dimensions is intertwined, all along the vast wheel of fate.
Once he had finished, she turned to Bruce. "You buying this?"
"Yeah, yeah, secret war, fate of civilisation," Bruce said. "Think I read this story I was a kid. Reckon it had the Silver Surfer in it. Hey, you're a super hero. Do you know the Silver Surfer? What's he like?" ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 58 Tall Tales Part 2"
Seamus the gnome awoke under the full moon, finding himself alive and well. He felt himself up and down for cracks or chips. He felt nothing at first, but noticed that the arm with which he was feeling was sore and stiff, and realised that it had been glued back on.
"Feckin' terrific," he said. "Sure and it's a hardware store here. Ye'd think there would be better glue."
"Oh, that's bloody gratitude."
Seamus looked up to see Wellsey lounging against a shelving unit full of trellises, and munching on a sandwich.
"We had a man down and a destroyed AA gun that was looking like it was going to set fire to the Pavilion," Wellsey said. "I figured you wouldn't bleed out while I found some superglue and a clamp." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 57 — Gnome Time to Lose"
Night was falling as Laura Cho arrived for night duty at the Handy Pavilion. A sad paper sign on the main door assured customers that the Pavilion was still open in spite of the damage. So sad it was, it almost brought a tear to Laura's eye. It had been a terrible day, Valentine's Day. The Pavilion had been dealt its greatest blow, and without the DIY Barn even making a move.
Laura had been away on the day of that the mushroom men had gone wild. She'd been visiting Karl Wintergreen and poor dear Carlos in the hospital. She'd hoped that Carlos would have noticed her decision to visit on Valentine's day, but he was still… not cold, perhaps. But distant. Very distant.
She'd had to come clean to him about her secret identity as the superhero Voyager. What had happened to Carlos made no sense otherwise, and it was not fair to leave him in ignorance. The simple fact was, he'd tried to save her by shoving her out of harm's way, and succeeded only in breaking a total of eight bones against her invulnerable body.
She'd had to explain this to him. Of course she had. And he'd been distant ever since. Perhaps he was still processing it. Then again, perhaps he felt threatened. Aquatic Woman had warned her that this could happen in relationships between superheroines and non-super men. It was hard to say yet what the deal was. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 56 — Tall Tales Part 1"
Wellsey leant against one of the pillars that held up the lofty roof of the Handy Pavilion and sighed deeply. It really was just one of those days. Marlon, leaning on the other side of the pillar, sighed even more deeply. From his jeans pocket he took a hip flask, took a swallow, and handed the bottle to Wellsey. Wellsey shook his head. Marlon shrugged, and slipped the flask away.
"You and Joyce got Valentine's Day plans?" Marlon said.
Something came hurtling over the nearest shelving unit. Part of a toilet? Something porcelain anyway. Both men ducked as it hit a nearby shelf, smashing a pile of paint cans, sending blue acrylic dripping to the floor.
"Nothing fancy," Wellsey said There's a Valentine's special at our local restaurant. Free bottle of champagne. And we don't get out as much as we used to. How about you?" ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 55 — Principles of Retail Management"
It was Valentines Day. This is probably a big day if you work in a florist's, a jewellery shop or a high-end restaurant, but for most sections of the Handy Pavilion it was just another day.
There were exceptions, of course. The garden centre was busier than it had been in months, while Nalda in arts and crafts was struggling to keep papier-mâché hearts and red paint on the shelves.
"Excuse me, miss, where's the pink glitter?"
"Over dere, and next year buy champagne." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 53 — A Very DIY Valentines Day"
"So," Fiona said.
"So," Norman said.
They sat at a wicker table, just by the plastic jerry cans in the Outdoor Furniture section. Not that long ago, Adam would have chased them away, but even he'd stopped caring. A grim, defensive mood had settled over the Handy Pavilion and customer numbers were at an all-time low.
"It's just that sort of a bloody morning, isn't it? Norman said.
"We have to give ourselves up," Fiona said. "We can't stay free while Sadie takes the blame for the armoured cat heist. There's not even any reason for her to go to prison any more. She was only confessing to save Axel." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 52 — Inside Your Mind"
Seamus the Gnome no longer made his life a secret. He couldn't really. There were just too many people in the garden section when the full moon rose and brought him to life. He just couldn't be bothered to hide himself from them any more. Besides, one of the late-night gardeners already knew him. Was that his name? Wellsey? Something like that
The old feller wore a plastic safety hat which some keen artist had painted in camouflage colours. He stood in the gap between the impatiens and the camellias, right next to a huge thing of cast iron and bamboo that looked somewhere between an ugly garden ornament and a surprisingly attractive anti-aircraft gun.
Beside Wellsey was a young woman, also in a hardhat, scanning the skies with a pair of binoculars. A young man was clearly also supposed to be watching the skies, but his work here was hindered by frequent breaks to look at the young woman.
"Saints preserve us, and what's going on here?" Seamus said.
"Oh, it's you, Seamus," Wellsey said. "Laura, Carlos, this is Seamus." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 51 – Incoming!"
Claudia Lebeau sat across the desk from Ms Shan. Ms Shan sat behind the MDF desk in her little office, her fingers steepled in front of her. The office was small and while it had some very pleasant associations for Mrs Lebrau, right then it seemed oppressive. It was airless and the only decoration was a small brass statute, a dying peace lily and a one of those posters that is meant to inspire but somehow only serve to bring the spirit a little closer to breaking.
"Officially, I can take no action," Claudia Lebeau said.
"I understand," Jasu Shan replied, and it was the worst thing she could possibly have said.
If Jasu had argued, Claudia had arguments. If she'd shouted, Claudia could have stalked off in a huff. If she'd threatened, well, Claudia could have reminded her that she was in no position to make more enemies.
Instead, she'd simply agreed. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 50 — Third Wheels and Fifth Columns"